I come to bed
late after
darkness turns

on its backside
and death takes
a cigarette break.

She sleeps face up
still as a museum
piece and I

linger over her
the way we both
used to stare into

the baby’s crib,
his fists clenched,
head tilted up

searching for the womb.
I’d hold my palm
above his face, hoping

to catch any small puff
of life and she’d dip closer,
wait for his tiny chest to rise.

Sometimes I couldn’t
stand it and I’d poke
him awake for the relief

that came with
his angry cry. Now I
stare down into her

sleeping face, lips
slightly blue, sheen
of night cream, chest

serene, and I panic, reach
until I see movement
behind her eyelids,

realize it’s the dream
where she cradles the baby,
arranging his blanket,
his future, imagine

she’s been staring down at me,
these many long, winter nights
stroking my clenched fists,

naming each breath I’ve lost
humming prayers and lullabies,
thankful for her ransoms, how

she quietly stands in for my shift.